A cardiac arrest is the most extreme emergency and happens when the heart stops pumping in a normal way, preventing blood from circulating around the body. It can happen at anybody at any age, anytime, anywhere.
Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing normally. There are usually no obvious symptoms or warning signs prior to this happening. Unless immediately treated with CPR and defibrillation, the person will die within minutes.
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The term refers to the steps that can be taken to keep someone alive until ambulance crews take over. These skills include chest compressions to manually pump blood around the body, and rescue breaths to provide oxygen.
Combining chest compressions with rescue breaths is the ‘gold standard’ as is particularly important to do if the person in cardiac arrest is a child, but ‘hands only’ is a useful alternative for untrained bystanders or those unwilling to give rescue breaths.
In the video above Blue Light Collaboration and Engagement Manager/Paramedic David McNally talks you through:
- what to do in the event of a cardiac arrest
- how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- how to use a defibrillator.
We’d like as many public areas, communities and workplaces to have publicly accessible defibrillators – otherwise known as defibs. These are placed in a cabinet that can be accessed 24 hours a day by anyone who needs to use one. In an emergency, the cabinet is accessed via a code given to the person who rings 999.
If you already have a defib that’s great! Please make sure you tell us about it so we can make sure anyone who rings us for a cardiac arrest can access the nearest defib to them.
- In the UK, around 60,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year
- Less than one in 10 people survive a cardiac arrest
- One of the main reasons for this is the lack of action from bystanders before ambulance crews arrive
- Defibrillation within five minutes can result in survival rates as high 70%
- We need bystanders need to take action by using defibrillators in the community
- Defibrillators should be as readily available as fire extinguishers
Frequently asked questions
Will we be in trouble for putting a cloth or something over someone's face?
No, this is to protect you from the potential risks currently faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and comes from UK Resuscitation guidelines.
If a person who needs help is in a situation that could cause us danger, should we intervene?
Please do not put yourself in an increased risk of danger when helping someone. If you can, remove the danger from the casualty or remove the casualty from the danger.
Can you take these sessions out to different communities to work with community groups who can support language and other access needs?
As we are currently facing the COIVD-19 pandemic we are reduced in what we can do face to face. However we do love to work with communities in the settings they are based and will get back to it when we can. There are other providers of BLS and AED training too, such as our voluntary partners like St John Ambulance.
What happens if the persons ribs break?
Ribs can be broken during CPR, but these will mend if resuscitation attempts are successful. Do not stop CPR if you feel this has occurred.
With the AEDs that are in a public space but locked with a keypad, how do we access them in an emergency?
By ringing 999 and requesting the ambulance service we can direct you to an AED that is accessible in a 500m radius. We will do this if there is more than one person on scene and the patient’s condition warrants it.
Where on the body are the defib pads placed?
The typical placement for AED pads on an adult are on the upper right and lower left side of the patient’s chest. The AED pads will show you exactly where to place them.
Why do we not give the 'kiss of life'?
In bystander CPR there is no need to deliver ‘rescue breaths’, just concentrate on compression at a rate of 100-120 per minute.
If the patient starts to breathe (even shallowly) before the ambulance arrives, does the defib tell you to stop CPR or should you keep going?
If the patient shows signs of life prior to the arrival of the ambulance service stop CPR, and offer reassurance and comfort to the casualty. The AED would continue to tell you to do CPR but as there are signs of life there is no need to continue CPR.
If you know someone has a pacemaker but appears to have had cardiac arrest would you still do CPR?
In a cardiac arrest the pacemaker is irrelevant to saving the patient, the use of an AED and compressions is essential to help save them.
Should CPR be stopped if the person performing it is exhausted?
Delivering CPR is a tiring skill, if you become exhausted/tired and there are other people on scene get them to take over from you and direct them as you have been shown.
What would happen if someone was touching the patient during the shock being delivered?
The AED gives clear instructions to make sure everyone is clear of the casualty period to shocking. This is so we don’t cause harm to other people.
If the person has metal clothing or jewelry should that be removed beforehand?
Because of the way AED pads are placed on the chest, any item in between this area must be moved, so if jewelry is present move so behind the neck area.
How much different is it doing CPR on children and adults?
The main difference is hand positions, in an infant (0-1 year old) we use two fingers in the centre of the chest. For a child we use one hand in the centre of their chest. We still compress approximately 1/3 of the chest depth and the same rate, 100-120 compressions per minute.
Working with communities
We have a Community Resuscitation team dedicated to strengthening the ‘chain of survival’ in communities across the North West. By installing defibrillators or teaching people basic life support skills, we want everyone in cardiac arrest to have the best chance of survival, no matter when or where they take ill.
The team is also responsible for training and supporting our community first responders and GoodSAM volunteers.
If you’re interested in having a defib in your workplace or community, or if you’d like to arrange CPR training for a group of colleagues or your community group, please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also recognise, celebrate and support those who actively help to increase survival rates from cardiac arrest through our CardiacSmart accreditation scheme.